Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the Season

Hunting season that is.  Oh sure, being December 22nd there are decorations around the house, a wreath on the door and Christmas cookies in the kitchen.  But we are still hunting....and have another month+ of hunting ahead of us!  This gift of time is something I am still getting used to.

You see, back in Vermont the season officially closes on Dec 31st but many, ok - most, years, significant snowfall has already shut down the bird hunting by now.  There might be some short late season hunts just to get outside and enjoy the crisp air but on woody mountainsides the going gets tough once the snow gets more than a few inches deep.  Winter settles in deeply in Vermont with a rhythm of quiet snowfall, crackling fires, and dogs settling in by the woodstove.

A pic from 2000 in my old house in Vermont.  Tweed and Storm.

I am sitting in Kansas as I write this though, and although there are dogs sleeping in front of the woodstove, the temperature outside is 45 degrees.  The light snow we received a few days ago is gone and for a couple of days is replaced by mud.  But by tomorrow it will have dried up enough to be very pleasant hunting with a forecast of 38 degrees and we will be back out there.  I took this photo just a few days ago of our 2 youngest dogs, Jazz and Belle..  The warmth of a fire attracts all dogs regardless of breed or age.  But don't worry, the setters from the photo above are sound asleep in nearby chairs.  

At the beginning of December we took the OR and spent a few days in western Kansas where Mike likes to deer hunt.  He took a couple of deer but we were disappointed to see that the pheasant numbers were still depressed.  We returned home and he took a third deer locally.  We don't buy beef all year long but instead eat 'grass fed venison.'  Mike also processes all of the scraps from the deer for supplementing for the dogs.

Western Kansas, where deer hunting is in wide open country and is all about spot and stalk.  After shooting the deer Mike had dragged them over to this small tree, the only distinguishing landmark to assure we could find them when we returned with the cart.

There were not a lot of pheasants but enough for some good dining on pheasant fajitas in the OR. 

But after a week of deer hunting it was back to bird hunting out of the house.  Often we pack a lunch since our search for new areas may take us a distance from the house.  We snack on cheeses, meats, crackers and apples in the car while on break between the morning and afternoon hunts.  This car lunch is the same that we often have when we hunt in Montana as well and it has become a pleasurable part of our hunting routine.

We enjoy exploring new covers and are delighted when we find quail coveys on new grounds.We continue to be conservation minded when hunting the quail: the size of the covey determines whether we pursue singles and how many it is okay to take.  On a typical, healthy covey we typically will take only one or two birds, knowing that if it is a large covey we can always revisit them before the season ends.

I will close with some random dog pictures that I have taken the past few weeks.  As always, I have more and will try to share in future posts.

Good cover means birds which means dogs on point but that cover also means more photos get tossed than kept, this pic is an example of why. That's Belle hidden behind the grass.
(click on any photo to enlarge)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mid-season update

In October we made a quick trip (can you call 3500 miles quick??) to Vermont for some ruffed grouse hunting.  I was happy to be back on familiar grounds and it was fun to visit with friends while we were there.  The scenery was as beautiful as ever and it did my heart good to hunt areas with vistas such as this:

Unfortunately, it seems that we must have forgotten to pay the weatherman's bill ahead of time and it rained all but 2 of the days that we hunted.  Despite the weather, we shot some grouse and woodcock, hunted with some friends, ate Parker Pie pizza and drank good local beer.   With the forecast of a soaking nor'easter coming in for the next 5 days, we cut our losses and headed home several days early.  We were sorry it meant missing out on connecting with a couple of special friends but both of us and the dogs needed to get out and dry out.  I managed only a few photos between rain showers:

Seems odd to see Mike wearing orange, doesn't it?

We find several deer racks a year, this one was fairly large for Vermont.

So interesting how moose are so large and sign is so fresh yet we don't see them all that often when bird hunting.  

Dining in the OR.  Ruffed grouse are my favorite game birds to eat.  

The Kansas bird season has been open for 3 weeks now and we are having a lot of fun.  We have been hunting out of the house: loading dogs, guns and lunch in the morning and heading out across the state.  This past summer we bought a little Ford Escape SUV and most days that is what we take - we have been impressed with the gas savings it gives us compared to driving one of the trucks every day.  We can carry 5 dogs plus gear in the back, the dogs might be a big snug but no one is going to complain when they are heading out to hunt.  We hunt most days although a couple of days I have hung back home and sent Mike and his EB boys out by themselves - those guys never seem to wear down.

We have been getting into birds every day with enjoyable dog work that is usually the discussion for the ride home and when reviewing photos that evening.  The open covers in KS and MT are great for providing opportunities for good photos.   This pic is my favorite so far this year, I love the colors and textures and it was taken at one of my favorite covers.  In the center is Storm on point on a covey that she held a long time while we worked our way over to her.  (click on any photo to see it larger)

Our typical sequence usually starts with one of us calling out, "dog down over here."  I will take a moment here to interpret for my grouse hunting friends: it is a midwest quail hunting tradition that 'dog down' means that a dog is on point.  It takes a little getting used to and I try to remember to explain it ahead of time to any friends who join us so they don't get concerned that we have an injured dog.  But I digress.....   Since we run 3 - 5 dogs at a time, the other dogs also know what that means and any that are around often head in to back the pointing dog.  This is makes for safer shooting since we know where all of the dogs are plus there have been many times that a dog coming in for a back actually serves to block a bird/covey that was running.  Once all are stopped I take out my pocket camera or Mike his cellphone, and we take a couple of photos.  We then check if the other gunner is ready and someone moves in to flush the birds.  It is quite civilized, if I say so myself.

On this point was the first time that I saw a covey on the ground when I went in to flush the birds.  They were running around in the brush in front of the dogs and as soon as one bird made eye contact with me they were out of there. Mike was in position on the other side of the hedge row for any birds that might fly through it.

A few other pics


A hedge row, classic quail cover

'The Oaks' , a new favorite cover filled with great timber....and birds

I will let you go for now but promise to post more photos and updates soon!
Lynn Dee

Monday, October 13, 2014

Montana 2014 in the rear view mirror, Part III, the dogs

I have come to really enjoy taking photos while we hunt.  We even have a little routine where I download them onto the laptop or ipad when we return from hunting and while we eat dinner I set it to playback the day's photos in a slideshow.   Lots of fun to relive the moments and discuss details that maybe one of us had missed at the time.  The photos also sometimes point out things that both of us missed, such as additional birds flushing off to the side or a dog backing - or breaking - that we had not noticed in person.  So I hope you all get some pleasure from my photos as well.  This will be the last batch from our MT trip.  But.....stay tuned, because in 2 days we are leaving for a spontaneous trip to Vermont to hunt grouse and woodcock!  

For now, back in MT, it was fun to have 2 pups along again this year.  Belle, one of the Fr Brit pups, was only 9 months when we left.  These first pics show her first points on sharptail.  We think she's going to be a good one: she covers the ground very nicely, handles easily, and seems to have a good nose.

Jazz, our other Fr Brit puppy, was only 5 months and still pretty small in size so we decided to hold off with hunting her until quail season here in KS.  She did get a little exposure to sharptails though, you can see how short she is in the grass.  Look closely to see the sharpie standing in front of her in the grass.  Overall, she is adorable and I can't wait to hunt her.

Often in photos the eye is drawn to the setters since they are bigger and white, but the 2 FB boys Jack and DW always put on a show, we are very fortunate to have them.

Sally is just 1 yr old and it is great fun to watch her speed across the prairie.  She has the darn'dest habit though of going on point only in the densest of cover where you can barely see her.  She reminds me a bit of the TV show Tool Time where the neighbor always had his face half covered.  This year Sally got quilled by a porcupine not once, but twice, but fortunately they weren't too bad and we were able to pull the quills ourselves.  The second time she yelped when it happened I am hoping that she learned to leave porkys alone.  

Can you see Sally on point in the photo below?

Fortunately, Tweed and her daughter Storm are much easier to see.

As always, thanks for looking. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Montana 2014 in the rear view mirror, Part II

The forecast showed too-warm days for a couple weeks straight so we decided to take a couple days off from hunting and go visiting as well as to see a part of the state we had not before seen.  We went up to Plentywood in the northeast corner of the state and met up with friends new and old.  Folks who spend their whole bird season camped in the same campground in town and hunt the areas around there.  It was a pleasure to meet for the first time a couple of fellows that we 'knew' through the online hunting board and see their dogs, including one who has the same number of dogs that we do which somehow gave me a small sense that we are not crazy, well, at least we're not alone in that.  Driving around always gives us the chance to see the countryside and get a feel for the land.

The combines were rolling, so we can all have our daily bread

About that time my new point&shoot pocket camera disappeared so there is a gap where I did not take any photos while hunting. (the camera was later found buried at the bottom of the glove compartment)  We headed back to our favorite area where we camp remotely.  We usually dry camp on state or federal ground and stay in one spot for up to a week before we have to head into town for supplies and water and then relocate.  The Open Range (OR) has a fresh water tank that holds an impressive 85 gallons and with additional water jugs for the dogs we have learned how to stretch our water for a week without feeling deprived.  The OR has been a remarkable rig, we have hauled and parked it in places that most would not think to take a 30' trailer.  We have camped in it in temps from single digits up to 99 degrees.  After long days of hunting, we cook dinner, feed dogs and as dark falls around us, it feels quite luxurious to drag our tired selves onto our queen sized memory foam bed.

On my August trip to New England, I had brought back a 2 yr old setter that I had bred who belongs to wonderful friends in Vermont.  Dixie was to spend a month with Mike and I, we would introduce this grouse dog to prairie birds and condition her for the grouse season back home.   Her owner would then come out to join us for a week.  Warren had planned to by a new truck this fall so instead of driving out/back by himself he bought a truck in Denver, flew into there to get it and then drove up to MT to meet us.  His maiden voyage in it unfortunately was dinged by a large rock that flew up into his windshield, smashing a handball sized dent in it and I'm sure making his heart skip a few beats.  But he arrived at our little campsite safely and happily took a beer to steady his hand after greeting his beloved dog.   We had a wonderful week, although on some days the weather made the hunting challenging.  With Warren making for a second gunner, I was able to carry my DSLR and take photos all week which was a lot of fun for me.

 Happily reunited

Dixie got to see lots of the sharptail cousins to her favorite ruffed grouse

A few shots I took of Warren walking in on points during the week.
DW and Storm down hard on a bird that was right in front of where Warren is in this photo


Jack and Storm on point out in a cut wheat field

The dogs really stretch their range when out on the prairie which means gunners often have to do some walking to get to the point.  You can click on photos to enlarge them to see the dogs.

In this photo, DW was on point about 300 yards out in the upper right, Storm backed him 100 yards back to the left, and Jack then came in and backed Storm, Warren is walking in from the left.  I put arrows to show how far away and small the dogs look out there!

The white dot in the center is a setter on point

After a very full week of birds, wind, giant steaks, beer...and more beer, it was time for Warren to head back to Vermont. 

 Not long after, Mike turned to me and said that he was ready to go home.  We had originally planned to stay until the opening of pheasant season, but the dogs had been pointing so many phez all along that it seemed almost an afterthought to put some of them in the freezer.  So after 40 days on the road we packed it in and headed east and south.  It did feel good to pull up to the home gates.

I still have quite a few photos I would like to share so it looks like I will have to write another post soon.  Thank you for reading along!